The Danger Of Holiness
July 7, 2018 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Verse: Ezekiel 2:1–2:5
Christ Lutheran Church
July 8, 2018
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
The Danger Of Holiness
And he said to me, "Son of Man stand up on your feet, and I will speak to you." And the Spirit came upon me, and he raised me, and stood me up on my feet, and I would hear him speaking to me. And he said to me, "Son of Man, I myself am sending you out to the house of Israel. To those who have rebelled against me. They, who along with their fathers, have rebelled against me to this very day. And say to them, 'Thus says the LORD!'" And whether they listen or recoil from you in terror – for they are a den of rebels – even so they will know that there is a prophet among them." Ezekiel 2:1-5 (LXX:DKV)
If there is a single theme that runs through today’s lessons it is: the danger of holiness. God is holy, and therefore represents the ultimate threat to those who are not. And that includes all of us: every man woman and child.
But there is a mitigating factor. Namely, the grace of God which redeemed us from sin by the cross, and restores us to divine likeness by holy baptism.
It is called “holy” baptism because “holy” is God’s adjective and baptism belongs to God. It is “the washing of regeneration, and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5) Or said another way: what Adam lost in sin, namely the Holy Spirit, is restored to us in baptism. And so now, we too are holy. But that is when the danger begins.
We see the danger of holiness in today’s Psalm. Israel cries out to the Lord for mercy. She has had more than enough; more than she can take of the contempt that arrogant and insolent men relentlessly pour out upon her. But why do they hate her so? Because Israel was chosen, and designated by God to be a holy nation from whose loins the Savior would appear in the fullness of time. This made her dangerous, and therefore the object of men’s scorn, ridicule and worse.
Ezekiel, as God’s prophet, also knew the danger of holiness. That is why the Lord fortifies him as he begins his ministry. Why he tells Ezekiel up front not to be discouraged and not to be afraid, but to speak the divine word he is given and not to worry about the results.
The LORD tells Ezekiel that the people he is to address are a rebellious house, that come for a rebellious ancestry, and are to this very day a “den of rebels.” And that whether they would hear him, or recoil from him in terror, they would know one thing for certain: that a prophet has been among them.
St. Paul had a similar problem in today’s epistle. He tells us herein about special visions and revelations that he received from God. He tells how he was snatched up into the third story of heaven ... And that he heard things there, and saw things there, that no human tongue is permitted to tell. But the experience was as dangerous as wondrous.
He goes on to tell us that because of these surpassingly great revelations that God sent a Satanic messenger to torment him, to make his life miserable, to cause him pain and grief (on top of his already countless tribulations). All this so that he would not, on account of these amazing visions, become proud, or self-sufficient lest after preaching to others, he himself should be disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:27)
No one knows what the “thorn in the flesh” was but St. Paul tells us that on three separate occasions he prayed to the Lord to take it way.
But God would not!
He did not take it away but did something more remarkable instead.
He gave Paul this sweet promise: My grace is sufficient for you. What does that mean? It means that no matter what waves of sorrow broke over him, God’s grace was bigger, stronger and fully sufficient. And that his grace would suffice to keep Paul safe, and once again make him strong, firm and steadfast.
Today God says to you, as well, “My grace is sufficient for you.” So whatever you fear, whatever setback you may experience, whatever sin you have perpetrated believe this platinum promise of God, “My grace is sufficient for you.” And then just watch - and you will see the salvation of your God! (Is. 52:10)
Jesus, too, knew the danger of holiness, because he was holiness incarnate and as such extremely dangerous. We learn in today’s gospel how the crowds marveled at his teachings. What St. Paul was not permitted to repeat, Jesus did. He told them things in the synagogue that day that made their heads swim! They witnessed the delightful deeds of mercy he performed so that they not keep silent, but had to ask in wonder: who is this man? where did he get this wisdom? and how does he do what he does? But in spite of it all they did not honor him, or believe in him, but crucified him instead.
But you cannot kill holiness. You can either submit to with all humility, lowliness, reverence, repentance and regret for your sins – or you can die from it eternally, and there is nothing worse than that! Those are the choices, there are no others.
The Lord’s disciples also knew the danger of holiness. As the Lord warned Ezekiel, so Jesus warns the disciples. He tells them that, “If any place (synagogue) will not receive you, nor hear you, leave there and shake the dust from beneath your feet as a testimony against them!"
And today may we, too, know the danger of holiness.
We are holy. By baptism. By faith in the cross of Jesus. By the sacred words spoken in this holy house. By the body and blood we eat and drink in Holy Communion. And by our conduct in as much as we walk in the newness of the baptismal life. (Romans 6:4 & 1 Thessalonians 4:1)
Lutherans don’t like to talk about that last point very much because they think it may interfere with our reliance the grace of God – but it will not. Indeed, “It is God who works in you, both to will and to perform his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13)
And so do not be afraid, do not be dismayed if the world considers you dangerous, instead hear the Word of the Lord: Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:12)